Pros and cons of buying property via real estate websites
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Should you buy home via real estate websites?

Realty portals are a good help in locating a property but are not of much use in checking sellers' credibility.

 Renu Yadav   
Your Search Ends Here

Nikhil Rathi, 30, working with a multinational company, recently shifted from Gurgaon to Ahmedabad with change of job. He wanted to buy a property in Ahmedabad as it was close to his native place, Udaipur, but was reluctant to go to local brokers as he was not sure of their credibility. He did Google search and chose to go with one of the leading online portals.

"I shortlisted six-seven properties sitting in my office. The process, including site visit, finalisation of property and documentation, was completed in one month," says Rathi.

There are many people like Rathi who don't have much time for property search and so depend on online portals. Though the actual transaction happens offline, these websites offer many sophisticated features that are of great help.

HELP IS HERE

Housing.com's Sliceview technology feature gives 360-degree walk-through tours of under-construction properties. 99acres.com has a feature, called iHome, through which the buyer can make a small payment and book online. "We help builders generate authentic leads as somebody who is paying money must be interested," says Narasimha Jayakumar, Chief Business Officer, 99acres.com. "If the buyer doesn't want to continue, the amount is refunded," he says.

These portals help people shortlist properties by giving information such as price/rent, size, location and proximity to facilities such as airport, railway station, hospital, schools, parks, etc. This saves time.

"Online portals are making the process of shortlisting properties easier by providing as much information as possible beforehand so that the buyer doesn't waste time and effort," says Sudhir Pai, CEO, Magicbricks.com.

HOW THEY EARN

Advertising and listing fee are the two sources of revenue. Housing.com has a subscription-based revenue model. Commonfloor.com charges for leads. For example, if a buyer visits the website and leaves a query for a property or asks to be contacted, Commonfloor.com considers it an authentic lead and charges the builder or the broker. 99acres.com also has a subscription-based model, though it also advertises projects through special campaigns. Makaan.com, recently acquired by Proptiger.com, also charges a listing fee. Magicbricks earns from advertisements as well as listings.

Proptiger.com is the only portal which earns by helping the builder sell. "We provide end-to-end services to people who come to our website looking to buy property and leave a lead," says Dhruv Agarwala, CEO, Proptiger.com.

In the secondary market, it charges for various services such as site visit and documentation. It entered the secondary market by acquiring Makaan.com.

CAN YOU SAVE BROKERAGE?

Yes, if you can get in touch with the owner directly. There are a large number of owner listings on these portals. Prateek Seal, CMO, Housing.com, says, "50-60% listings (on our website) are from individuals."

"Around 30% out of three lakh secondary market listings are by individuals," says Jayakumar of 99acres.com.

Pai of Magicbricks.com says, "1.8 lakh listings out of the total eight lakh on our website are by individuals." Individual listings are free on almost all these sites.

However, builders and brokers pay for the services. Some portals also offer premium services. So, one can ensure that one's listings come on top in searches by paying a higher fee or buying a premium package.

AUTHENTICITY

Lack of authentic information is the biggest problem buyers face. Here, even these portals are not of much help in checking the builder's credibility. "We consider third-party ratings provided by agencies like CRISIL. We don't work with builders about whom we don't have any information. For under-construction projects we provide updates through photographs. But it is not possible for us to do financial assessment or due diligence of the builder or check the property's legality," says Jayakumar of 99acres.com.

These portals are aggregators of information. "It is a 'buyer beware' kind of a thing. It is not possible to verify each and every listing. We work like Google in the sense we provide organic results for property searches, results which are relevant for users," says Jain of Commonfloor.com. "We have an internal mechanism through which we check the past track record of the builder before working with it," says Agarwala of PropTiger.com.

Although efforts are being made to give authentic information, some portals have launched verified listing services as well. Housing.com claims that all properties listed on its portal are verified with actual photographs.

"We have a team of over 600 people which verifies properties by visiting the sites. There are 65,000 verified listings on our website," says Jayakumar of 99acres.com.